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J. W. McGarvey
Lands of the Bible (1881)


L E T T E R   I I.


      WE left Liverpool the next morning after our arrival, called to see friends at Chester and Birmingham, came on to London the following evening, and found ourselves at rest in the Charing Cross Hotel about eleven o'clock at night.

      Our ride through England was very interesting. We saw many things that were new and strange, among them some that we had anticipated, and many that we had not. We readily recognized, from previous description, the peculiar construction of their railway-coaches. They are shorter, lighter, and less expensively constructed than ours, and are entered by four doors on each side. Each door leads into a compartment that reminds one of the inside of a short omnibus fixed to run sideways. It has a front and a rear seat, each long enough for about five passengers and running the entire length of the compartment, which corresponds with the width of the car. There is no stove in the coach, but the feet of passengers are warmed by cylinders of hot water laid on the floor. Neither is there any water; this is obtained, if at all, at the stations. The official whom we call the [397] conductor is here called the guard, and he guards you very carefully against all danger.

      Our attention was attracted by peculiar modes of farming. We saw two-horse and three-horse teams, in which the horses were hitched one before another. Seldom were two horses hitched abreast. The haystacks are all covered with thatched roofs of straw, as carefully as the houses of some of the laborers. The lands are cut up into little patches of from one to three or four acres, separated by hedges or very frail fences. But these little fields are cultivated with the same precision and care as the market-gardens near our large cities. They all look as if they had been graded, and those which were recently sown looked as if they had been raked with a garden-rake. In almost every instance both the meadows and the ploughed lands were worked into slightly elevated beds, about eight feet wide, to facilitate drainage; and the furrows which marked the lines between these elevations were as straight as a gun-barrel. So, indeed, were the furrows of the freshly-turned soil. The ploughing is all done with a precision which I have never seen equaled in America, though I have seen some good ploughing, and have done a little myself. The hedges are beautiful, even without their foliage; but they are lower and less compact than I expected to see them. Frank, on whom I depend for sharp observations on stock and farming operations, remarked that he was not surprised that the fox-hunters could make their horses leap the hedges and fences, for he could leap them himself. He said they would not do for mules or hogs. But we saw not a single hog, or pig, or mule, in our entire ride through the kingdom; and, what surprised us more, we saw only one ass, and he was turning the wheel of a brick-yard.

      We found the Charing Cross Hotel the most convenient one in London for our purpose. It is in the very heart of the city, not far from any of the great centres of business, and from its court you enter the cars for France. On the streets we found ourselves among familiar names. Our walks were chiefly on the Strand and Fleet Street, both of which names were as familiar as household words, while nearly all the streets running into them were as familiar by name as those of Lexington. I felt strange to be actually looking into streets which history and poetry and romance had made thus familiar from my childhood. I was in Paternoster Row, and in No. 15, the celebrated book-store of the Bagsters. Had I not been prepared for it by previous description, I would have been surprised out of measure to find the sale-room of this greatest of all publishers of Bibles and kindred works a little affair about 15 feet wide and 20 or 30 feet deep. They sell, [398] however, only their own publications, and they keep only a few copies of each at their sale-room. Paternoster Row itself also surprised me. It is a dingy street of old houses, and is only 17 feet wide from house to house. The sidewalks are each five feet wide, leaving only seven feet for the street between the curbstones. Many of the streets of London are of similar width, and few would compare in width with the ordinary streets of our newer American cities. In walking the streets we saw countless throngs of people, and a proportionate number of vehicles of every description except such as we were accustomed to see at home.

      The most stately dames we saw in England, and the most lordly gentlemen, were the chambermaids and the dining-room servants at our hotel. The former moved about the house in their white caps with so much sobriety and spoke with so much gravity that you were tempted to ask them who was dead in the house, while the latter, in their narrow-tailed black coats, white vests, and white cravats, looked and walked as if they were the proprietors of the house, and we felt that it was almost an impertinence to ask them to wait on us. They seemed to feel the same way, too, for of all the dining-room servants I ever saw they were the slowest and most forgetful. I was about to omit the cab-drivers. Next to the waiters, they appeared to be the most important men in London.

      On the eve of our departure from England our party was increased by the addition of Henry S. Earl, formerly of America, now of Southampton, England. One of the letters which were delivered to me on the arrival of our ship at Liverpool was from him, and it informed me that he had made all the arrangements necessary for joining our party. I communicated with him by telegraph, and he joined us in London. I have known him intimately for many years. He is an experienced traveler, and we are delighted to have his company.

      There are three routes from London to Paris between which the preferences of travelers are divided. The most northern, with the shortest sea-passage, is via Dover and Calais; the most southern, with the longest sea-passage, is via New Haven and Dieppe; between these is that via Folkestone and Boulogne. We chose the last, and we had a smooth passage of two hours across the Channel.

      Our first experience of hotel-life in France was at Boulogne, and we were there both surprised and delighted at the contrast between French and English waiters, illustrative of the difference between the two nations. Instead of moving with slow and stately step, the French waiters fairly flew around the room, and we were greatly amused in [399] looking at them. We were equally amused, though not a little perplexed, at their ludicrous efforts to make us understand them, and our still more ludicrous efforts to make them understand us. They took it all with perfect complacency, seeming neither amused nor vexed by our stupidity. So it was all through France and Italy, except that some of the Italians appeared as much amused at us as we at them.

      We reached Paris at half past four o'clock on a pleasant afternoon, and drove at once to the residence of our friend and brother, Jules Delaunay, whom we had requested by telegraph to procure rooms for us near his own. The drive led us through the heart of the city, at once introducing us to its most noted localities. We found the people in their gayest mood and in holiday dress. The streets were swarming with men, women, and children; vehicles filled with well-dressed people were moving leisurely about in every direction; everybody wore a smile, and nobody seemed in a hurry. We began to think that it must be a fête-day, and we soon saw figures in masks and grotesque regalia walking and riding about for the amusement of the crowd. It was a kind of carnival which the Parisians celebrate in the middle of Lent.

      We next day saw all the principal streets and squares and many of the public buildings of Paris, and, although I had read of this city much, and conversed much with those who had seen it, I was forced to realize, like the queen of Sheba, that the half had not been told me. Indeed, it is impossible for any verbal description or any painting to give an adequate conception of the splendor of this the most splendid city in the world. Its wide streets--called boulevards--are from 100 to 200 feet in breadth, and are lined with rows of fine young trees on each side. In some instances there are two rows of trees on each side, with grass-plats between them 12 or 15 feet in width, and a sidewalk 20 or 30 feet wide between the buildings and the nearest row of trees. Both streets and sidewalks are of smooth stone or asphaltum, and are kept scrupulously clean, neither dust nor mud being allowed to accumulate. On the right and left of these splendid streets rise high palatial buildings of a beautiful light-colored stone, and appearing as fresh and clean as if built but yesterday; and at frequent intervals we pass through magnificent open squares, into which many streets converge as centres, and which are adorned with fountains and statues and monuments full of history.

      The most splendid of these monuments is the Arc de Triomphe (Triumphal Arch), in the northwestern part of the city, and the magnificence of the city is best appreciated when viewed from the top of this [400] monument. The arch was erected to commemorate the victories of the Republic and the Empire from 1792 to 1815. It was begun by the first Napoleon in the year 1806, and completed under the reign of Louis Philippe in 1836. It is a structure of stone, 147 feet long, 73 feet wide, and 162 feet high. An archway 45 feet wide and 90 feet high passes through it from side to side, while another of equal height but narrower passes through it from end to end. Its exterior is covered with sculptured figures in high relief, representing the most famous incidents in the personal career of the great emperor, together with striking scenes in his most famous battles. The walls within the arches are inscribed with the names of 384 generals and 96 victories. It was built in imitation of the triumphal arches of the ancient Roman generals and emperors, but it so far exceeds them that a half-dozen such arches as those of Titus, Constantine, and Septimius Severus, still standing in Rome, might be hid within its vast dimensions, and still there would be room for more.

      When you stand upon the flat stone roof of this grand monument, and look down upon the surface immediately about it, you see that it stands in the centre of an open circle, about a quarter of a mile in diameter, whose clean pavement of asphaltum slopes gradually away from the arch in every direction. In this circle 12 grand avenues and boulevards find a common centre, and they radiate from it as the spokes from the hub of a wheel. They vary in width from 100 to 300 feet, the narrowest of them having a row of beautiful trees next to the sidewalk on either side, and the widest having two rows of trees on each side with a smooth grass-plat between them. Some of them have sidewalks of brick or stone 25 feet wide, next to these on each side a row of trees, then a smooth green lawn 25 feet wide, then another row of trees, and then a street for vehicles 100 feet wide, and all kept almost as clean as the floor of a private dwelling. Standing on the Arch of Triumph, your vision stretches along these grand avenues until objects moving on them are dim in the distance; and as you turn from one to another around the circle, and all the majestic churches, palaces, and domes of the city pass before you, you begin to realize, as you cannot from any other point of view, the magnificence of a city which has never had an equal on the face of the globe. If your mind turns upon the cost in money of all this magnificence, one or two facts are enough to discourage all further calculations; for the cost of the Arch of Triumph alone was more than $2,000,000, and all of these wide avenues were cut through blocks of buildings of every description in utter disregard of the previous narrow and crooked streets. You will [401] see at the present day, in some parts of the city, houses three and four stories high, with one-fourth or one-third of their fronts or rears cut away by a new avenue that is being opened, and the remainder not yet repaired. This work was inaugurated by the second Napoleon, and it is still in progress under the Republic. The grandest of all these grand avenues is the Champs Élysées (the Elysian Fields), which extends from the garden of the Tuileries, the palace of Napoleon, to the Arch of Triumph, a distance of a mile and a quarter. The most attractive shops and the most seductive resorts of pleasure that wealth and genius can contrive are collected along its course, and it is the most frequented street in all the city for the sake of evening drives in every variety of splendid equipage. The cut on the opposite page gives a feeble representation of it looking toward the Arch.

      But I find myself running into a description of that which cannot be adequately described. If you were to set your imagination to work to picture to yourself the most magnificent city which the genius of man and the wealth of a great nation could build, you would find it excelled by the reality should you see Paris on a fine day. We entered a few of the finer churches, and were both pleased and pained by the sight,--pleased to look upon their splendor and their enormous proportions, but pained to think how the simple religion of Jesus Christ is corrupted and degraded in these temples built for the glory of man. It is said that Notre Dame can seat 20,000 persons, and I would suppose it to be true; but sure I am that not half the 20,000 could get a view of the preacher in his pulpit, so numerous are the columns to obstruct the view, and the deep recesses into which the people would be crowded. In former times these temples were not supplied with seats of any kind, the people being required to stand or to kneel on the marble floors during the service, and even now very few fixed seats are found in them; but the church of Notre Dame is supplied with several thousand small rush-bottomed chairs, rougher and more unsightly than we usually have in our kitchens at home. I was astonished that chairs so rude would be allowed an admittance into buildings where all else is so splendid.

      We regretted to leave Paris as soon as we did, but the necessity of completing our work in Palestine before the hottest weather sets in forbade a longer stay, and we promised ourselves a more satisfactory visit on our return. We left there on Friday, March 21st, at 8.40 P. M., and traveled all that night, Saturday, and Saturday night, reaching Pisa, our next stopping-place, before daylight Sunday morning. Our route lay through Macon', Modane', the Mont Cenis Tunnel, Turin, and Gen'oa. [402]

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      We entered the Alps, and commenced ascending them on Saturday at 8 A. M. In about an hour we began to see snow on the higher mountain-ridges, and in two hours more we had reached the snow-line and saw snow on the side of our track. We had also entered the region of the clouds, which we had previously seen hanging around the sides of the highest mountains. As we ascended, the mountains ascended still faster, stretching themselves higher and higher above us, until at last, about eleven o'clock, there burst upon our view, to the right of our track, a mountain which overwhelmed us by the grandeur of its proportions. Soon after we first entered the mountains I threw my shawl on the floor and sat down on it in the middle of the car, so that I could see alternately out of both windows, and I regretted that I could not see both ways at once. After gazing for a time with delight upon the grand peaks and ridges, advancing and retreating as the train moved on, I exclaimed to my companions, This is finer than Paris! But when we came in sight of the mountain just mentioned I said, This is grander than the ocean in a storm; and so it was. Light, fleecy clouds hung round it, but it lifted its craggy ridge high above them, while fields of snow about its summit whiter than the clouds gleamed through them, and their white surface was broken and varied here and there by dark masses of naked rock. A deep, narrow valley between us and the mountain enabled us to realize the vastness of its height, and it was near enough to us to make us feel its awful presence. I kneeled at the window, so as to get an unobstructed view, and as I gazed upon it, with an admiration I had never felt before in the presence of any created thing, I could not hold back the tears from my eyes. I had seen God's ocean in its fury, and gazed upon it with a feeling akin to exultation; but when I saw God's mountains in their glory, my heart sank and melted within me. I know not the name of that mountain, but when I remember it I seem to be thinking of a wild, mysterious dream, and not of a reality. Brother Taylor said that it was worth our trip thus far to see this mountain and some others almost its equals in grandeur; and we all assented to the remark.

      The tunnel through Mont Cenis (pronounced Ce-nee'), seven miles in length, is one of the marvels of modern engineering. It took our train twenty-six minutes to pass through it. We ascended a steep grade, running slowly, about half the distance, and descended quite rapidly the remainder. We had passed through at least a dozen smaller tunnels in climbing up to the elevation of the great one, and after leaving it we passed through about twenty in descending to the elevated plain called Piedmont'. We reached Turin', the principal [403] city of Piedmont', a little after dark, and on our journey thence to Pisa, which was in the night, we saw nothing of the splendid scenery through which we passed.

      We spent Sunday morning at Pisa, and saw its four monuments, as they are called,--the Cathedral, the Leaning Tower, the Baptistery, and the Campo Santo. The Cathedral, enriched with marble and statuary from ancient Rome and from Egypt, surpasses in the magnificence of its interior any church that we saw in Paris. The priests and acolytes were chanting and marching and parading, and people were coming and praying and looking around at the dumb show, while an English-speaking attendant took possession of us and led us about everywhere, talking aloud and describing to us every object of interest. I felt ashamed at first to follow him and listen to him, and I rather pulled back; but when I saw that the people and the priests all seemed to think that it was the right way to do, I followed and listened. Among other things too numerous to mention, he showed us a beautiful marble coffin which contained, according to the Latin inscription on it, the bones of Gamaliel and Nicodemus, both honored with the title of saint, We smiled at the representation, and the guide smiled. We soon discovered that he believed as few of the lies he repeated to us about the relics of the saints as we did, and that his opinion of the priests was as unfavorable as our own.

      The Campo Santo is at one side of the paved square in which the Cathedral stands, and is only a few steps distant from the latter. It is the burial-place of the distinguished men of Pisa, none being buried there except by order of the State. It is an oblong enclosure about 150 by 50 feet, surrounded by a wall 25 or 30 feet high, with no opening in it except one door. Next to this wall, on the inner side, is a stone pavement about 20 feet wide, extending all around, with a roof above it supported by the outer wall and by a row of stone pillars at the inner edge of the pavement. The remainder of the space is open to the air and is set in grass and flowers. The bodies are buried under this pavement, and inscriptions cut in the stone mark the spots and give brief statements concerning the persons. The soil beneath was brought from Jerusalem in the year 1200, loading 53 ships, and hence the name Campo Santo, holy ground. A large number of statues grace the enclosing corridor, among which was one which fascinated us all. It was the statue of a woman whose face was so carved as to present three different expressions, one in front and one at each side. Standing in front, the expression was that of inconsolable distress; standing at her left, it was that of extreme severity; [404]

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and at her right it was that of a sweet and placid contentment. We gazed upon it a long time, amazed at the genius which carved from the cold marble in a single face so many expressions of human feeling.

      The inner face of the surrounding wall is almost covered with paintings in fresco. We were struck with three of these,--one representing the triumph of death, one the judgment, and one purgatory and hell. They are each about 20 feet square, and the figures on them are nearly as large as life. In depicting the awful scenes of the judgment day the artist has played a joke on the priests. While the righteous are rejoicing on the right hand of the judge, and the wicked wailing at his left, just between the two is a fat, naked priest, stretched out horizontally at full length, with the devil pulling at his ankles to drag him to the left, and an angel tugging at his wrists to pull him to the right. It is left in doubt which way he will go. A similar joke is found in the next picture, where the wicked are in hell
and the righteous in heaven. An angel has seized a monk by the hair to drag him out of heaven, while three other angels have dashed across the impassable gulf to seize a lawyer, a sculptor, and a poet, who had been sent as if by mistake to the bad place, and bring them back among the good.

      The Baptistery is a circular building, about 100 feet in diameter, and is surmounted by a dome whose top is 190 feet high. It is built entirely of marble, and is richly ornamented on the outside by sculptured figures in high relief. It must have been a gem of architectural beauty when the marble, which is now weather-stained, was white and fresh. It takes its name from a baptizing-pool [405] within, for the protection and use of which it was constructed. It stands in the rear of the Cathedral, and about 50 yards distant. When you enter the massive bronze door you see before you, against the opposite wall, an elaborately-carved marble pulpit, and in front of this, reaching nearly to the centre of the building, the baptistery proper. It stands on the marble floor of the building, its height above the floor, and its interior depth, being 3½ feet, just the depth of most of our modern baptisteries. Its external shape is a square, with the corners rounded like the rounded corners of a piano. Its interior would also be a square but for the fact that each of the four corners is occupied by a small circular pool, 30 inches in exterior diameter and 18 inches interior, for the immersion of infants. The depth of these is the same as that of the main pool.

      The remainder of the space, constituting the pool for adults, is almost in the shape of a cross, and is precisely nine feet each way. The pool was entered by movable wooden steps, which are not now preserved. This structure was erected, of course, during the period in which immersion was the universal practice of the Roman Catholic Church, except in cases of sick adults and extremely feeble infants; and now, since that church has abandoned the primitive practice of immersion, this building, erected at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, stands as a marble monument of this apostasy. No use at all is made of it now; it is preserved merely as a relic of antiquity and an object of curiosity to strangers. Its construction was commenced in the year 1153, about a century and a half before a decree of council placed sprinkling on a level with immersion in the Roman Catholic Church. A few years later it would not have been built at all. Was this not providential?

      Of the Leaning Tower I need say but little, its form being made familiar to school children by the pictures in their geographies. It is 180 feet high, by about 30 in diameter, and it leans 13 feet out of the perpendicular. It is built with an outer wall of marble about 3 feet thick, and an inner one of freestone about 30 inches thick. Between these is a space 3 feet wide, occupied by a winding stairway of stone steps by which the top is reached. These steps are deeply worn by the feet of the millions who have climbed them, and it is curious to note how the worn track passes to the outer end of the steps on the lower side of the tower, and to the inner end on the upper side, caused by the efforts of the climber to maintain his perpendicular. A chime of five bells hangs in the top of the tower, declaring plainly that the structure was intended as the bell-tower of the Cathedral, near [406] which it stands. The most frightful place that I have been in during my entire tour thus far is the top of this tower when I walked around on the lower side. The people on the square below looked like pigmies, and the horses like goats; and I could not shake off the feeling when I glanced at the receding wall under me that the thing was about to fall. I stepped lightly lest I should topple it over, and I stepped back very soon to the upper side.


[LOB 397-407]

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J. W. McGarvey
Lands of the Bible (1881)

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